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EU Trade

Angus Robertson: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what assessment his Department has made of the potential impact of theExpanding Exports Helpdesk on the (a) value and (b) volume of exports from developing countries into the European Union; and if he will make a statement. [215942]

Mr. Gareth Thomas: To help exporters in developing countries to make the most of EU trade preferences, and to make sure that this theoretical market access translates into more trade in practice, the European Commission set up the online Export Helpdesk in February 2004. This innovation aims to boost developing countries' exports by ensuring that exporters in these countries get the maximum information and assistance necessary to tackle the EU market. Practically it provides extensive information free of charge on customs duties, documentation, and rules of origin and trade statistics. An improved multilingual version, the Expanding Exports Helpdesk, was launched on 4 February 2005.

DFID has not made a formal assessment of the potential impact of this Helpdesk, but we expect the European Commission itself to monitor its impact regularly to ensure that it is effective and provides good value for money.

Angus Robertson: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development if he will list the official initiatives in (a) the UK and (b) the EU to boost export opportunities for developing countries; and if he will make a statement. [215943]

Mr. Gareth Thomas: The European Commission is responsible for EU member states' trade policies, including import policies. As part of this, the EU as a whole operates a series of preferential import arrangements with all developing country partners, either on a bilateral, regional or multilateral basis, including arrangements under the Cotonou Agreement, the Generalised System of Preferences, and the Everything But Arms Initiative. All of these have as part of their objectives the aim of improving the export competitiveness of developing countries and helping them take advantage of trading opportunities through privileged access to EU markets. In addition, the European Commission has recently launched an improved version of its Expanding Exports Helpdesk",
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aimed at boosting developing country exports to the EU by giving exporters in these countries all the practical information and advice they need.

In addition, the UK and EU provide support through its Trade Related Capacity Building (TRCB) Programmes. The UK has committed a total of £109 million since 1998 to building the skills and knowledge developing countries need to develop their trading capabilities, almost three quarters of which is aimed at helping small businesses export both regionally and internationally. The UK provides this support to increase the volume and value of developing country exports, including widening their range of exports and selling in a wider range of markets.

For example, in Southern Africa, the UK is funding a £12 million programme to boost export opportunities for small-scale farmers and traders by developing common standards across goods and services in the region and improving customs procedures.

We are also funding a £2 million programme in Kenya, which is supporting the business and investment climate there, in order to strengthen Kenyan capacity to export goods to regional and international markets.

The UK is also funding a £17 million programme which will enable small enterprises from Nigeria to access new commodity and services markets—including international markets.

Additionally, we contribute to European TRCB efforts, which have provided £675 million to develop the exports of developing countries since 2001.


John Austin: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development (1) what assessment he has made of the level of continuing need for aid and assistance in Grenada following Hurricane Ivan; and if he will make a statement; [216601]

(2) what assessment he has made of the impact on the (a) tourist industry and (b) economy of Grenada of Hurricane Ivan; and if he will make a statement; [216603]

(3) what assistance is being given to Grenada to diversify its agricultural production; and if he will make a statement; [216606]

(4) what assessment he has made of the impact of Hurricane Ivan on agriculture in Grenada, with particular reference to (a) nutmeg and (b) cocoa; and what assistance is being given towards recovery of these industries; [216604]

(5) what assessment he has made of housing need in Grenada following Hurricane Ivan; and what assistance his Department is providing. [216605]

Mr. Gareth Thomas: Hurricane Ivan has been a catastrophe for Grenada. Two weeks after the hurricane hit the island, the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) and the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) undertook a macro-socio-economic assessment of the damage caused. This assessed that 90 per cent. of housing stock was either destroyed or damaged, and around 30 per cent. of the population made homeless. The OECS/ECLAC assessment indicated that the damage to
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schools, hospitals, businesses and infrastructure was estimated to be in the region of £500 million, or twice Grenada's Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

Grenada had been recording impressive growth rates in recent years and was expected to grow by 5.7 per cent. in 2004. With significant losses to the main productive sectors of agriculture and tourism caused by the hurricane, the economy is now expected to have contracted by 1.4 per cent. in 2004. Some 90 per cent. of hotel rooms on the island were affected by the hurricane. A staff mission from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) will provide a further update on the post-Ivan macro-economic situation and the prospects for economic recovery at a donor briefing meeting in Barbados at the end of February 2005.

Unemployment has increased with an estimated 40,000 jobs directly affected by the hurricane. However, as the physical reconstruction of buildings and infrastructure gets under way, it is anticipated that unemployment levels will start to decline.

The devastation to the agricultural sector caused by Hurricane Ivan was particularly severe: 95 per cent. of nutmeg trees—Grenada's principal export commodity—were uprooted. Regrowth and recovery of the nutmeg industry will take an estimated 7–10 years. Grenada can, however, continue to export its reserve stocks for the next three years. This should help to cushion the impact of the loss of the trees on the economy. Cocoa was also affected, albeit, to a much lesser extent. 30 per cent. of the crop will need to be replanted, and it is expected that 50–70 per cent. of the harvest for next year will be available.

At the 19 November donor conference on Grenada, the IMF announced that for the calendar year of 2004, donor contributions would fill the £21 million gap in Grenada's finances. At that time, the IMF anticipated that a financing gap of £4.2 million remained for 2005, which would widen in 2006 to £19.2 million. The IMF currently has a team in Grenada to undertake a fuller assessment of financing needs in 2005 and 2006. The IMF team will brief DFID officials and other development partners on their findings at a meeting in Barbados on 23 February 2005.

One of the key financial challenges for the Government of Grenada is a high debt burden. We are working with the United States Agency for International Development, to provide a team of debt advisers to help the Government of Grenada to restructure its total stock of debt.

Despite the unprecedented scale of the damage to the agricultural sector, the Grenadian Government has identified significant potential to restructure and transform the sector with support from the private sector. DFID is currently funding an evaluation of the direct and indirect effects of Hurricane Ivan on the forestry sector in Grenada as the basis for determining the interventions needed to rehabilitate and reconstruct the forestry sector. The study will implement a detailed assessment of the key damage to forestation on the island, and prioritise activities to ensure that work is urgently undertaken to prevent landslides and provide protection to the water table.
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Under the United Nations Flash Appeal for Grenada, the UN's Food and Agriculture Organisation, appealed for some £2.2 1 million to support agriculture. £1.4 million has so far been committed and assistance has been provided to rehabilitate the cocoa crop and to assist the Government in its development of a strategy for nutmeg production.

The Grenada Board of Tourism now reports 50 percent. of hotel rooms on the island are back inoperation, and predicts that the figure will be 80 percent. by the end of December 2005. The rehabilitation has been mainly funded by private insurance and the private sector.

Reconstruction of the housing sector is a Government of Grenada priority, and is under way. Insurance payments are being made to those eligible, and the rawmaterials needed are being imported. For priorityvulnerable and needy families, the Government of Grenada has committed itself to constructing 225low-income homes between November 2004 and February 2005 at a cost of about £8,000 per home, and providing material assistance for the repair of 1,125 roofs during the same period. The Government are also offering a Soft Loan Facility that provides a maximum loan amount of approximately £8,000 for 10years with a one year grace period, at an interest rate of 3 per cent. A training and a public information programme on construction tips are also on-going, with model houses displaying appropriate building techniques being driven around the island. Over a longer timeframe, the Government of Grenada has set a target to construct 10,000 low-income homes under a phased programme over the next five years.

In addition, the Venezuelan Government has committed to the construction of 130 homes in the Parish of St. David's; the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) to constructing 200 houses and repairing a further 1,500 houses by the end of 2005; and the People's Republic of China has also undertaken to provide 2,000 low-cost homes. A number of NGOs are seeking to provide low-cost, quickly constructed homes.

DFID's micro finance project in Grenada has developed a new facility for small housing loans. The European Commission are considering how their micro finance programme might provide similar support.

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